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Catalysing methanol synthesis

Summary

For many years, Topsøe's MK-121 methanol synthesis catalyst was recognised for it's superior activity. MK-151 FENCE™, the next generation of catalyst, has raised the bar even higher. It is characterised by higher activity than its predecessor's and by significantly enhanced stability due to the innovative FENCE™ technology. S.M. King, S.S. Nielsen, and S. Moshiri of Haldor Topsøe discuss Topsøe's latest developments in methanol synthesis catalyst, from science to proven performance.

Abstract

The current annual production of methanol exceeds 45 million tonnes, and it is expected to continue growing by 4% per year. By volume, methanol is one of the top five chemical commodities in the world. Its traditional applications include the production of solvents and anti-freeze, as well as other chemicals such as acetic acid and formaldehyde. Recently, there is growing interest in a so-called methanol economy, in which methanol and its derivatives (e.g., dimethyl ether and olefins) are used for energy storage, clean-burning transportation fuel, and the production of a variety of chemical intermediates needed in polymer manufacturing. Methanol production is increasing in locations where there is limited availability or affordability of natural gas, but natural gas remains the predominate feed and will most likely continue to do so for many years. The recent surge in shale gas production is expected to increase demand for new methanol plants based on natural gas, including those with design capacities exceeding 5,000 t/d. Given the substantial investment in such large-scale plants, there is considerable incentive to take advantage of economy of scale and maximise single-line capacity. Keywords: Methanol synthesis catalyst, sintering, activity, stability, selectivity, mechanical strength, Johnson Matthey

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Future fuel technology

Summary

Haldor Topsøe A/S offers a number of technologies that enables conversion of gas into high value products. H. Udesen and M. Teusch report on the TIGAS™ process (Topsoe Improved Gasoline Synthesis), which makes it possible to produce high-quality, high-value gasoline from natural gas and the OBATE™ methanol fuel, a clean and cost effective alternative to diesel fuel that also shows great promise in the shipping industry as a replacement for heavy fuel oil.

Abstract

The TIGAS process Although the TIGAS process has recently been updated and improved, the original process was developed as a result of the oil crises in the 1970s. Today, the TIGAS technology covers a wide application of gasoline uses ranging from its suitability as diluent for highly viscous oil, as blending component into the refinery gasoline pool, or simply as a drop-in fuel Presently, a number of alternatives are being considered and tested around the world to ensure that transportation as we know it today will also be possible in the future. Alternatives comprise electricity, hydrogen, compressed natural gas (CNG) etc. but also energy carriers that have been around for a while like dimethyl ether (DME), methanol and ethanol have gained renewed interest. All of the alternatives may exhibit advantages on one or more parameters, but none of the above can be as easily distributed in the existing supply chain or used in the car engines without modification as is the case with the synthetic gasoline. The characteristics of synthetic gasoline resemble that of a “normal” gasoline to such an extent that it can be treated as a true drop-in fuel. Keywords: TIGAS™, OBATE™, synthetic gasoline, catalyst, environmental regulations, fuel properties, marine engines, shipping industry, Haldor Topsøe

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A long history in steam reforming at Billingham

Summary

The Catalyst Research Centre in Billingham, UK, has been at the epicentre for key developments in the modern steam reforming process since the 1930s. J. Brightling of Johnson Matthey Process Technologies recounts how a fundamental understanding of steam reforming and expertise for catalysts over many years at Billingham has been instrumental in the journey to today's leading steam reforming technology.

Abstract

Johnson Matthey’s KATALCOJM catalysts for steam reforming are developed at its advanced Catalyst Research Centre in Billingham, UK. This location has been at the epicentre for key developments in the modern steam reforming process which can be traced back as far as the 1930s. Over the years, the fundamental understanding acquired for this technology by the business has resulted in many industry firsts. For example, it has resulted in the leading commercially available steam reforming catalysts, KATALCOJM QUADRALOBE™, which are used by market leaders in technology development. Today Johnson Matthey continues to invest heavily in research and development, ensuring that its products and services directly meet the needs of customers throughout the world. Keywords: Steam reforming, alkalised reforming catalyst, reformer monitoring, QUADRALOBE, catalyst shape

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The Carnit process gets a makeover

Summary

The Amnit process for the production of concentrated ammonium nitrate solutions is suitable for the majority of granulation processes. It combines high thermal efficiency, low maintenance cost, safe operation and optimal environmental compatibility. The reaction of ammonia with nitric acid occurs in a pressurised recycle flow loop, without producing any process vapour. A specific feature of the Amnit process is the self-regulating auto-thermal pre-concentration step. No external heat supply is required. Efficient pH controls achieve a liquid effluent that complies with the most stringent conditions for pollution control. G. Malard of CEAMAG discusses the key features and benefits of the Amnit process.

Abstract

The process technology for ammonium nitrate production has shown a continuous trend towards a gradual increase of thermal efficiency combined with the production of more concentrated solutions, together with sustained attempts to improve the safety of operation and minimise the environmental impact. Some processes combine the neutralisation reaction and evaporation in a single vessel, with internal recirculation. In other processes these operations take place in separate vessels which are associated in a simple external loop with forced or natural recirculation. Keywords: Amnit process, CEAMAG, ammonium nitrate, neutralisation, energy saving, effluent control

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Spherodizer granulation revival

Summary

Recent developments in the process design, mechanical and metallurgical concepts, and operating conditions of standard cold spherodizer units have resulted in substantial increases in granulation capacity and efficiency. Based on the HECKE process, production capacities in excess of 500,000 t/a of CAN 27 are now achieved in a single standard spherodizer granulation line, and several kinds of AN based fertilizers can be produced.

Abstract

In his US patent1 Benjamin Smith proposed a granulating process capable of providing a high degree of control over granulating conditions during the formation of pellets in order to produce fertilizer granules of uniform size. The process, to be known as Spherodizer, is based on the principle of spraying a slurry of feed material onto recycled nuclei so as to produce granule growth by layering. The size of nuclei is adjusted so that moisture will be disseminated before agglomeration can occur. The moisture content of the granulating bed can thereby be maintained below the critical moisture content at which agglomeration occurs. Keywords: Ammonium nitrate granulation, HICAP SPHERO granulation process, spherodizer drum, CEAMAG, HECKE, CAN 27

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Plant Manager+

Summary

Approximately 75% of all urea plants worldwide still produce prills. Compared to granules, prills are smaller in size and have lower strength, leading to more dust problems during handling. Furthermore, prill strength is reduced, particularly during hot and humid weather conditions and when plant loads are increased. This Round Table discussion reports on the experiences of different plants and the solutions available to increase the strength of urea prills.

Abstract

Mr Muhammad Kashif Naseem of SABIC in Saudi Arabia initiates the following discussion: We have prilled urea and its strength is very weak. We often have too much undersize. What are the causes of weak prill strength and how can it be improved? Mr Le Ngoc Ban of Phu My Fertilizer Plant in Vietnam confirms the problem: We have the same problem. Dust in our prilled product (size < 1mm) sometimes exceeds 1% even when we reduce the prilling bucket speed to nearly overflow speed. Keywords: Urea prills, tuttle bucket, crushing strength, impact strength, formaldehyde

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European gas markets

Summary

European gas prices remain high and liberalisation of gas markets has been fragmentary and slow, but supply diversification and the development of gas hubs is gradually driving pricing away from the traditional oil index contract model.

Abstract

In spite of sometimes fierce competition from cheaper gas locations, its proximity to demand sources and integrated, written down capacity means that the European Union still has considerable ammonia capacity; roughly 19 million t/a, just under 10% of the world total, although not all of this is continuously operational. Table 1 lists plants still considered active, and most of this capacity is based on natural gas feedstock, although a few plants use coke oven gas or other waste streams from industrial complexes. This reliance on natural gas is nevertheless a headache for the EU nitrogen industry, as it must cope with Europe’s prevailing high gas prices, with the resultant knock-on effects on profitability, and this is why several of the plants in the table operate intermittently, as market conditions allow. For the past few years EU natural gas prices have consistently run ahead of most other major nitrogen producing regions. While UK National Balance Point prices were as low as $3-4/MMBtu ten years ago, they have risen progressively over the past decade, and for the past couple of years wholesale prices have been in the $10-12/MMBtu region. Most of the reason for this has been the global rise in the price of oil, itself a by-product of increased demand in newly industrialised countries like China, and the fact that EU gas prices remain largely coupled to oil prices. It was hoped that liberalisation of EU gas markets might lead to more gas-on-gas competition and an end to the prevailing regime of long term, oil indexed contracts, especially those insisted upon by Europe’s major supplier, Russia’s Gazprom. However, EU-wide moves to liberalise gas markets have often moved slowly, and in most EU countries gas markets are still dominated by a single large (often state-owned) supplier. Only in Germany, Ireland, Croatia Lithuania and the UK does the largest supplier have less than a 40% market share, according to EU statistics. Keywords: SHALE, GAZPROM, STATOIL, POLAND, HUB, NBP

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Safety and security in the ammonium nitrate industry

Summary

At the Ammonium Nitrate and Nitric Acid (AN/NA) meeting in southern Spain last September, safety and security concerns around the use and misuse of ammonium nitrate were again to the fore.

Abstract

Following the success of its trans-Atlantic change of venue to the Netherlands in 2010, the AN/NA conference moved back to Europe for a second time in September 2013, hosted by Fertiberia and Espindesa at the Villa Mellitana resort outside Benidorm. But while the venue may change, the preoccupations of the industry seem to remain the same, with safety and security in the production, storage and handling of ammonium nitrate continuing to occupy much of the discussion, especially coming as this conference did in the wake of another fatal AN accident, this time at the West Fertilizer Company in West, Texas in April 2013. Indeed, while the West incident is still under investigation by the US Chemical Safety Board (CSB), who have been busy with a number of separate incidents in other industries and still not released a report on the accident, for the information of the conference Orica had performed an analysis of the West incident using what public domain information was available, and presented their results to the delegates. Keywords: REGULATION, LEGISLATION, JIEDDO, TRANSPORT, pH, CAN, SULPHATE, PHOSPHATE, CHLORIDE

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Selecting materials for nitric acid service

Summary

Senior research engineer Daniel Gullberg of Sandvik Materials Technology looks at the selection of materials for demanding service in nitric acid plants.

Abstract

In the constant battle against corrosion in processing plants it is not only important to make allowances for known corrosive elements, but also to be prepared for the potential of unexpected threats. There is nothing more disruptive than a breakdown early in the operational life of a processing plant, especially when it is caused by premature equipment failure due to corrosion. Of course, the choice of material is critical to the performance of any plant and needs to be made carefully taking fully into account the local service conditions in which the material will be operating. Much of the nitric acid produced is used for the manufacture of fertilizers, and the industry uses the acid at concentrations between 60-65%. Almost all of the equipment that comes into contact with the process media is stainless steel, the most common material used being grade ASTM 304L (Sandvik 3R12). However, in several nitric acid plants the corrosion of heat exchanger tubes and shells has resulted in significant costly downtime, due to maintenance and re-tubing, resulting in extensive lost production. In order to alleviate such situations the selection of more advanced stainless steels can not only solve the corrosion issue, but can also do so cost effectively. Keywords: CHROMIUM, ZIRCONIUM, SANICRO, DUPLEX, STEEL, AUSTENITIC, TITANIUM

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